MOINES, Iowa — You could say that Rex the Dog, the
hero German shepherd who on Feb. 21 took at least two
bullets protecting his 16-year-old master, has a few
when it was all on the line, when Javier Mercado was
alone, hiding and terrified in his family’s Des Moines
home while intruders forced their way in, Rex did what
every nucleotide of his DNA told him to do.
defended his owner, the boy with whom he’d slept every
night since he was a pup just about three years ago.
cops found Rex sitting in a corner of the parents’
bedroom upstairs, "very bloody, quite
injured," says Jan Magnuson, of Des Moines animal
control. In that same room, Javier had hidden in the
is the one who saved the dog’s life. She and an
officer used two "capture poles" with an
adjustable cable that goes around a dog’s neck, guided
Rex down the stairs and placed him inside a kennel. Then
Magnuson rushed the bleeding animal to a vet.
and Rex were honored by PETA, the People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals. If Rex could read, he could see
that he got a "Heroic Dog Award" from the
about those few flaws.
knew Rex from previous times she had been called to the
had multiple complaints. Running loose, no valid dog
license, aggressive toward neighbors," she says.
never bit anyone, says Magnuson, but he did run at large
and charge at people "and bark and growl." She
suggested that they neuter him.
Magnuson also says Rex is a brave, good dog. The family
says that since the complaints, Rex has been leashed and
that any barking is more of a warning to protect his
this home invasion, says Magnuson, "He was
protecting his home and his family. I am thrilled that
he survived. To be honest, when I first saw him, I didn’t
think he’d make it."
is the son of Julia Cadena, an interpreter at a health
clinic, and Francisco Mercado, a crane operator. He has
two older brothers who also live at home, one in
community college, the other a barber.
weekdays, Javier is by himself at home. He’s in 11th
grade and taking online classes except for one day a
week. "I just felt it’d be better for me,"
mom said that going online, she read that German
shepherds were good pets for kids with attention deficit
has ADHD. We wanted to get a dog that was at the same
energy level," she says.
Wednesday, Feb. 21, at around 12:20 p.m., he was feeding
Rex and a Pomeranian that belonged to a girlfriend of
one of his brothers.
heard a really loud banging on the door," says
was the kind of noise that you just feel is ominous.
texted one of the brothers, "Victor, is that you
knocking on the door?"
at the gym," was the answer.
looked out one of the upstairs windows. He saw a guy
standing at the door. He saw a Dodge Charger.
texted and texted his mom:
wya" (shorthand for "where’re you at?")
texted his dad:
at work can’t always answer right back when they hear
a ping on their smartphone.
was at the front office at work and heard the pings but
thought it was like other times, her son being hungry
and wanting Mom to send him some food.
dad called back, but Javier was on the line with 911 and
kept declining his dad’s calls.
then he had seen the first guy and another man go around
to the back of the house.
heard the sliding door just shatter," says Javier.
"I grabbed the closest thing to me. A screwdriver,
a little thing, about 8 inches long."
hid in the walk-in closet.
family had moved to the four-bedroom rental house only
seven months ago. Javier struggled to remember the exact
address for the 911 dispatcher. "She finally
figured it out," says Javier.
could hear Rex barking at the men (the Pomeranian made
himself scarce until it was all over).
could hear the robbers break things. He could hear them
kicking down doors inside the house even though they
weren’t locked. Later the family would find mattresses
that had been stabbed and ripped.
mom says that the suspects took Javier’s laptop, a
32-inch TV, "shoes, clothes a lot of electronics,
like a PlayStation."
heard one of the guys yell about 77-pound Rex, "Get
the dog! The dog bit me!"
could hear Rex run upstairs to the bedroom in which he
door to the bedroom was open.
heard four gunshots. Either two or three of .22 caliber
bullets hit Rex. One bullet went through his neck; he
also was hit in the rear left leg, breaking it and
requiring a surgical pin and screw, and the right front
leg, perhaps by the same bullet.
cried every time he got hit," says Javier.
could hear police sirens. The robbers were quickly gone.
had been on the phone to 911 for 53 minutes by the time
it was all over.
Moines Police Commander Doug Jenkins says they
"hope to have a resolution soon" to the case.
the family has moved out of the house.
can’t live there anymore," says Cadena, not after
what happened. The family is staying with her in-laws in
the South End until they find a new place.
they’re trying to decide what to do with the remainder
of the $62,221 in GoFundMe donations that 2,400 people
sent in when Rex’s plight went public.
fund was set up because there was an initial $800 vet
bill as Rex was stabilized right after the shooting, and
a $10,276 bill for the surgery. The family could come up
is some $51,000 left over.
trying to figure that out," says Cadena.
is now seeing a psychologist to talk about all that
Rex has a pet psychologist, as the German shepherd is
jittery when seeing strangers. He wears a cone-shaped
collar to prevent him from pulling at 17 staples from
physical prognosis for Rex is good, says Cadena, even
though his neck has bullet fragments that couldn’t be
extracted. She says Rex might face the knife again after
he’s sired a litter.
was asked if Rex took the bullets because the dog felt
love for his owner?
he did," he answered.